I like the concept of Office365 because, unlike Google Docs, it appears (on paper, at least) to integrate well with your desktop Office applications. Users are familiar with Microsoft products, and like them (and they’re great products). As a small-site, looking to roll-out fresh implementations of both Exchange and Sharepoint, with less than 100 users, we’re probably a key market for Microsoft.
One of the selling points of Office365 (or any SaaS product) is very low cost of management. But are on premise costs really that high? My experience with Microsoft servers running on HP Proliant servers is that, simply, they never go wrong. Of course, I might just be lucky, and they could go wrong anytime now. But generally speaking, they sit in the corner and do their job.
For our 65 user head-office site, a basic Exchange implementation will cost £4k for the licences, £5k for the server (including maintenance), £1.2k for administrator training, £.17k for a couple of days of installation time and maybe £2k a year for disaster recovery, data backups and reseller support. So if we keep it for four years, we’re paying a total of £19.9k, which is £6.38 per user per month. By co-incidence, this is pretty much exactly the cost of basic Office365 (£6.5 per month).
However, with on-premise Exchange you have to add on the cost and hassle of setting up and managing remote users, connecting through their smartphones, their iPads and their home computers. This is a pain and something of a security nightmare. On the other hand, our site only has a basic 2MB ADSL internet connection. That means low bandwidth and, crucially, no SLA. So we’d have to upgrade our connection. A leased-line or Ethernet First Mile (EFM) will add around £7k a year . Now Office365 doesn’t add up.
If we had a leased-line already, I’d be tempted. But I’m happy to muddle along with on-premise servers and cheap ADSL internet connectivity. It means, if our ADSL is down, we can’t send or receive e-mails, but I’d be more confident of dealing with that than if we couldn’t access our Office365 portal at all.
I want to virtualise our entire server infrastructure with VMware Essentials Plus. If we didn’t have on-premise Exchange and Sharepoint, and instead used Office365 (or another hosted Exchange solution) it would be impossible to justify the expense, as there wouldn’t be enough on-premise servers left to justify the investment in a SAN. That’s part of the problem of looking at server virtualisation and Office365 as separate projects. In a small business, you really have to go all-in with one or the other to justify the expense. With a mix and match of on-premise servers and SaaS solutions you might think you’re getting the best of both worlds, but you could pay a heavy price.